Q&A: Val Kilmer at the
San Jose Stage
In the filmed version of his one man show, Citizen Twain, Kilmer channels Mark Twain. The actor is scheduled to introduce two screenings of the film at the end of the month at San Jose Stage. Metro traded emails with Kilmer to pick the brain of one of cinema's greatest contemporary shape-shifters.
Why do you admire Mark Twain?
His compassion for his fellow man. He is chronically addicted to the connection with the audience and the fact that he just knows he is connecting to them, that he represents them because he has taken the time to view Americans from all angles and without judgement. And that he choses to laugh instead of cry.
When you played Jim Morrison, you spent a year preparing for that role. What's it like getting so deeply into someone's head? And, specifically, Jim Morrison's?
It was satisfying, but not something you would wish on your friends. He's not the kind of guy you would introduce to your sister. Or girlfriend. Or wife. Or mother.
Your portrayal of Doc Holliday in Tombstone is quite different from other gunslingers. Why did you choose to make the character speak so gently and playfully?
That's how he was written, and how he was in real life. It was a real privilege to have such a well-constructed, inspired character all laid out. It's a love story between two very different men. Men of honor and sharing a strange bond and respect for truth, amidst an extremely violent backdrop.
Top Gun got panned by critics for its dialogue and plot. Yet the film was the highest grosser of the year and has endured. Why do you think that is?
Tony Scott was inspired in his passion for the subject and talent as a visualist. The casting was inspired. (Don) Simpson and (Jerry) Bruckheimer were perfect producers. The stars aligned. I made no bones about how absurd I thought the script was, but I literally ran from the screening to Don and Jerry's office at Paramount and told them I was completely wrong and that they had a monster hit. Don Simpson, this is true, was so happy, he stood up, and climbed up onto his desk and put his hands on his hips and saluted the imaginary millions. We laughed and laughed. I, contrary to all the silliness written, got along great with Tom Cruise and had a ball with my crew—Rick Rossovich and all the young bloods playing all the want-to-be Top Guns.
In other interviews, you've said you only did big studio projects to make money. Do you regret that choice?
I don't have regrets. I've been blessed and so proud that my best work is before me. I am objective about my own acting and have been doing it, gulp, for 50 years.
You were rumored to be difficult to work with in the '90s, were you? Why or why not?
I wasn't very empathetic to my directors or those in control at studios, trusting, sometimes foolishly, that the work would speak for itself. I do wish I'd taken more time to be more polite, and I always apologize to anyone I meet who I worked with during those busy early days, as it was a part of being the lead I didn't take responsibility for, and I should have.
You're a very talented actor, what's it like being in a movie that gets poor reviews?
I haven't ever read the reviews since my first play. We got incredible reviews and the cast destroyed the play because they all believed we were the greatest thing since sliced bread, and I figured, "If this is what happens when the reviews are the best they can be, why run the risk or reading them?"
You've played such a broad array of characters, what about a role excites you?
Dec 29-30, 7:30pm & 8pm, $75+
San Jose Stage Company